Rafael Nadal has not been ranked No. 1 on the ATP Tour since the June 23, 2014, rankings. Since that time he had actually fallen down to a ranking of 10th before reascending. As tournaments are played this week in Washington, Kitzbuhel, and Los Cabos, the Spaniard is idle along with his main competitors for the No.1 ranking, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray. However, the 2017 Rogers Cup will be played next week in Montreal and Nadal is expected to be in the draw. The results of that tournament can produce a change at the top of the men's tennis rankings.

1000 points at stake

The Canadian Masters, which switch every year between Toronto and Montreal, offers 1000 ranking points to the winner. At present, that is not enough to include Roger Federer in the discussion for the World No.1 position with the rankings that will update immediately after the Rogers Cup (ie. the August 14th ranking). The Swiss Maestro can hope to get to the top of the world in Cincinnati or New York, but he is still a little too far back of Murray to claim top spot immediately after Montreal. Nadal, on the other hand, will enter Montreal with a 285-point deficit relative to Murray and top spot. Therefore any scenario where Nadal outscores Murray by more than that amount in terms of ranking points will see the Spaniard reach No.1 on August 14th.

Other points for other finishing positions

In order to understand what Nadal needs to do in Montreal, it's necessary to understand the ranking points that are associated with each round of play in the Masters Series events. As stated previously, the winner gets 1000 ranking points. However, there are still substantial amounts of ranking points associated with the late rounds for non-winners.

  • the runner-up in a Masters Series event gets 600 points
  • the semifinalists in a Masters Series event get 360 points each
  • the quarter-finalists in a Masters Series event get 180 points each
  • players eliminated in the round of 16 get 90 ranking points
  • players eliminated in the round of 32 get 45 ranking points

Since Nadal has to outscore Murray by 286 ranking points, Nadal will have to make at least the semifinals of the Rogers Cup to have a chance at the No.1 ranking as of the August-14th rankings.

In that scenario, with Nadal losing in the semifinals, the Spaniard would be No.1 if Murray fell in the round of 32 or did not contest the tournament. However, in order to guarantee top spot, Nadal would need to win the title. If he does that then he would be No.1 on August 14th even if Murray finished runner-up. That scenario would see Nadal get 1000 points and Murray get 600, the Spaniard, therefore, outscoring Murray by 400 and overcoming the 286-point deficit.

Another scenario where Nadal gets No. 1

There is an in-between scenario for Nadal. For instance, if he finishes runner-up, the Spaniard will get 600 ranking points. He would then overtake Murray if the Scot fell in the quarterfinals or earlier in Canada (or did not play).

The plus-minus scenarios with ranking points can be difficult for fans not familiar with the system. If you want some easy pointers then the following are true.

  • Federer can't be No.1 after the Rogers Cup, but he can be after the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati
  • Either Nadal or Murray will be No.1 after the Rogers Cup
  • Nadal can guarantee the No.1 with a title but to have any chance at all he needs to make at least the semifinals
  • If he loses in the semifinals then he needs Murray to not play or to lose in the round of 32
  • If Nadal loses in the final then he needs Murray to not play or lose in the quarters or earlier

With regard to Murray losing early or not playing, there is certainly a chance that one or the other could happen.

He has a problem with his hip that has been central to much discourse lately. Unless that injury improves soon it's hard to picture Murray as No.1 for very much longer. He might survive the Rogers Cup on top, but Cincinnati is a different matter. At present, the competition for top spot appears to be between Roger Federer and Nadal in the next six weeks.